DoMLI accused of unnecessarily harassing businesspersons and civil servants in the name of money laundering prevention

Published On: June 7, 2024 05:21 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, June 7: The Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DoMLI) has been found summoning businesspersons and employees for complaints that do not even constitute an offense, making them fill out property disclosure forms, and engaging in intimidating activities.

The DoMLI, established to handle specialized offenses related to money laundering, has been regularly summoning government employees and mid-level businesspersons. It has been found that the DoMLI is creating fake complaints, making them fill out asset disclosure forms, and intimidating them by claiming they have unauthorized assets.

Businesspersons and employees have complained that the DoMLI itself creates complaints and summons and intimidates individuals based on such complaints. This issue reached the Prime Minister's Office and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) after DoMLI officials, under the direction of the then director general Pushparaj Shahi, grilled employees and businesspersons. Such activities, which had never been seen or heard of before, began occurring since Shahi's arrival at the department.

"Pushparaj Shahi has now been transferred, but he summoned 20 employees to the department. He also called in some businesspersons, demanding their asset details, and instructed his subordinates to keep the cases of some suspicious individuals pending," said a source in the DoMLI.

Former director general Shahi used investigation officers from the Nepal Police to summon employees and intimidate them with threats of detention, forcing them to fill out asset disclosure forms. Due to this, the Prime Minister's Office transferred him two weeks ago and appointed Kamal Raj Bhattarai in his place. Superintendent of Police (SP) Krishna Pangeni of Nepal Police is also there, leading the police operations. Shahi had previously been widely controversial while serving as the head of the Tribhuvan Airport Immigration Office.

Ever since Shahi has entered the government service, he has been embroiled in various controversies. So far, the DoMLI has summoned and interrogated about 20 employees.

Similarly, the DoMLI has interrogated around 18 businesspersons. Most of them are small business owners, but a few are well-known entrepreneurs. He also had a journalist fill out an asset disclosure form. Attempts to contact Shahi for more information were unsuccessful. Although his phone rang, he did not answer.

Employees and businesspersons who have been contacted reported that the DoMLI has been summoning and intimidating them with the intention of extracting unfair benefits. Complaints have also been filed with the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, alleging that the department has been intimidating them beyond its jurisdiction under the pretext of false complaints.

The DoMLI is an agency under the Office of the Prime Minister. Those troubled by the DoMLI have filed complaints about this issue. The Prime Minister's Office transferred Shahi, stating that he had tarnished the department's reputation.

A prominent individual engaged in health-related business in Kathmandu was also summoned by DoMLI officials under the direction of Shajhi when he was the director general of the department. However, the businessperson claims that his records were presented to the Prime Minister's Office.

When attempting to obtain information from the DoMLI's Information Officer Atma Ram Satyal regarding the department unnecessarily making businesspersons and employees fill out asset disclosure forms and interrogating them, contact could not be established. Calls to his mobile number also went unanswered.

The asset disclosure form is required to be submitted to the Office of the National Archives and the National Vigilance Center. Additionally, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) also raises concerns and requests asset disclosure forms in case of suspicion. However, the DoMLI cannot impose restrictions or hold assets of individuals, employees, or businesspersons who have not been proven guilty of any offense.

It is claimed that Shahi, as the former Director General, pressured office directors and investigation officers to hold meetings and keep files hidden away.

Following such allegations against Shahi, the umbrella associations of private sectors initiated delegations to the Prime Minister's Office. It is claimed that Shahi, as the former DG of the DoMLI, pressured office directors and investigation officers to keep certain investigations on hold.

The complaint that he was openly involved in corruption under the guise of submitting asset details to the CIAA had been reported to the CIAA. Following the complaint, Chief Commissioner Prem Kumar Rai of the CIAA called Shahi and warned him against engaging in such activities.

According to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the DoMLI cannot summon employees and businesspersons for interrogation and make them fill forms. An investigation into money laundering cannot be conducted by the DoMLI until an offense is proved.

The then DG Shahi, who was working beyond his legal jurisdiction, was not interested in improving the situation of Nepal in the investigation, prosecution and the current international evaluation. "His focus was only on putting certain cases on hold while pushing forward others," said an employee of the DoMLI

As stated in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2064 BS, aiding someone in concealing, converting, or transferring funds to conceal the source of wealth obtained through tax evasion, terrorist activities, or other illegal means, or to shield individuals from legal consequences, is considered as money laundering.

In the Act, it is stipulated that any bank, financial institution, or non-financial institution establishing a business relationship with any individual or entity must acquire the prescribed documents in the format provided by the Nepal Rastra Bank periodically and accurately identify such individuals or entities. However, sources allege that Shahi disregarded this law as well.

Leave A Comment